Trading Lamar Jackson is one way the Baltimore Ravens can solve a looming problem with their franchise quarterback this offseason. A trade would mean not having to pay Jackson a record-breaking, fully guaranteed contract, but the Ravens would need to start afresh at football’s most important position.
One NFL executive told Mike Sando of The Athletic a trade involving Jackson and Miami Dolphins’ starter Tua Tagovailoa might work: “Mike McDaniel probably would do great with Lamar. Maybe a Lamar-for-Tua trade makes sense.”
Jackson’s potential fit in the creative and expansive offense called by Miami head coach Mike McDaniel is a popular opinion already this offseason. The more intriguing part of this scenario is whether the Ravens would start over with Tua.
He enjoyed a career year this season, but the player drafted fifth overall in 2020 also suffered multiple concussions that have some doubting the 24-year-old’s future in the NFL.
Dolphins Have Interesting Lamar Jackson Replacement
While the same executive who spoke with Sando believes “Baltimore tags him and holds onto” Jackson, a trade remains a possibility the longer both sides go without a contract resolution.
Sando pointed out how applying the franchise tag can be the first step toward putting Jackson on the block: “Using the exclusive tag would cost more and prevent other teams from signing Jackson to an offer sheet while making it easier for the Ravens to maximize compensation in a trade. The non-exclusive tag would make sense if the Ravens hoped another team might sign Jackson to an offer sheet. In that case, the Ravens would receive two first-round draft choices in return for Jackson if they let him go.”
If general manager Eric DeCosta goes down the line with a trade, sending Jackson to the Dolphins for Tua could be a win-win for all parties. Tagovailoa was outstanding this season, throwing for a career-high 3,548 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Six of his touchdown passes came against the Ravens in Week 2. His final scoring throw completed a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback to help the Dolphins win 42-38 at M&T Bank Stadium:
Throwing to wide receivers as talented as Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill played a major role in Tagovailoa’s dramatic third-year leap. So did a scheme crafted by McDaniel to feature rollout passes, bootlegs, one-read throws targeting the middle of the field and deep strikes off play-action.
The formula helped Tagovailoa remain dominant up to the season’s halfway point, per numbers from Pro Football Network:
Tagovailoa could transfer the same skills to a Ravens team set to replace Greg Roman with a more aggressive offensive coordinator capable of expanding the passing game. The only problem is Tagovailoa wouldn’t have Hill and Waddle to aim for, while the former Alabama standout’s health issues represent too much of a gamble for the Ravens.
Ravens Need Dolphins-Like Offense to Keep Jackson
The best solution for the Ravens is to keep Jackson and equip him with an offense akin the one run by the Dolphins. It’s a system some believe makes Miami an “ideal landing spot” for Jackson.
While Jackson would reach another level with the Dolphins, he’d do the same in Baltimore with a more daring play-caller and better receivers on the outside. The Dolphins aren’t a good trade fit because they don’t have a first-round pick. An NFL investigation found the franchise guilty of tampering in pursuit of Tom Brady when the latter was still with the New England Patriots, resulting in the Dolphins forfeiting this year’s opening-round selection.
There’s also the not-so small matter of Tagovailoa’s status. He missed five games, including the playoffs, due to several concussions.
Confusion reigns about whether Tagovailoa should continue to play, with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting on February 1 “several medical professionals” remain “confident he’ll be 100% when the time comes for football.”
Meanwhile, neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, who told TMZ Sports back in October Tagovailoa should “stop playing” and “gallantly walk away.”
There’s no indication Tagovailoa will step away from football, but the Ravens wouldn’t be able to ignore his injury history. Especially since Jackson has missed 11 games the past two seasons with ankle and knee problems.
Keeping Jackson, even on the tag, and putting more talent around him, both on the field and in the booth, makes more sense than a risky trade for Tua. The only way it would change is if the Dolphins added Waddle alongside his quarterback to sweeten the pot.